During 1930 Yellow Truck & Coach made a clever investment in the nation's most popular interstate coach operator, The Greyhound Corp. Greyhound's involvement with Yellow Coach dates back to 1929 when the Motor Transit Corp. (M.T.C. - Greyhound's predecessor) sold the C.H. Will Motors Corp. to Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co. M.T.C. had purchased Minneapolis, Minnesota-based C.H. Will Motors Corp. in 1927, and for a number of years before and after, a majority of the firm's Greyhound-badged coaches rode on purpose-built Will bus chassis that were mostly bodied by Minneapolis' Eckland Bros. Although the exact terms of the deal remain unknown, it was assumed that from that point on, M.T.C. and its numerous independent Greyhound operators would purchase either complete buses or bus chassis from Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Corp. Following M.T.C's 1930 reorganization as The Greyhound Corp., Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Corp. sold the Minneapolis factory to Carl H. Will, its former owner, in return for a portion of his Greyhound shares.
Despite a half-decade rise in the popularity of motor coach transportation, Greyhound found itself in trouble after the stock market crash of 1929. In 1929 Greyhound's net income was $1.3 million, but during 1930 ridership fell by 50% and its profits for the year amounted to $38,000. By 1932 Greyhound's operating revenue had fallen a further 27%.
Matthew Robinson, an accountant with the Atlas Corp., a large holding company that had recently purchased (by prior agreement) a majority of the firm's shares from Goldman Sachs, was dispatched to Greyhound's office to discover if its recently acquired holding was worth saving. After Glenn W. Traer, jr. (son of Minneapolis banker Glenn W. Traer), Greyhound's chief financial officer, explained the complicated economics of the firm's operations, both men agreed the firm was salvageable and devised a plan to keep it in business. What it needed most was an influx of cash and capital, which neither man was either willing/ or capable of supplying. Luckily Traer had a good idea.
At that time Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Corp was interested in increasing it's already 30% share of the US bus market, and was even more interested in increasing its share of the intercity coach market, the exact line of work that Greyhound specialized in. During 1932 Traer met with Yellow Truck & Coach executives and proposed a plan that would prove to be beneficial for both firms.
As GM already owned a large number of Greyhound shares, it was in their best interests to keep the firm afloat. Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Corp. assumed $1 million of Greyhound's bank debt in return for Greyhound's agreement to purchase Yellow Coaches (exclusively) until the debt was repaid. GM's Greyhound investment marked the start of a decade and a half of development and cooperation between the two firms. Traer would later play an important part in General Motors investment in National City Lines, in what became known as the "Great Streetcar Swindle". Although Yellow Truck would increase its share in Greyhound over the coming years, it divested itself of all of its Greyhound shares in 1946.
Despite the financial arrangement with General Motors not all Greyhounds operators used Yellow Coaches during the 30's. ACFs were popular with a number of Greyhound operators while others used buses constructed by Fageol, Flxible etc.
The three men responsible for the early success of the Yellow Truck & Coach Co. were John A. Ritchie, Ernest Breech, and George Alan Green. All three had worked under Hertz at Yellow Coach/Cab prior to the General Motors merger, and continued to invigorate the operation during their tenure with the firm. After Hertz' retirement, Ritchie was elected as chairman of the board of Yellow Truck & Coach, a position he held until 1931.
While John A. Ritchie and Col. Green were extremely important to General Motors future success, their contributions were surpassed by those of Ernest R. (Ernie) Breech. Breech was a 1917 graduate of the accounting program at Springfield, Missouri's Drury College. Upon his graduation he relocated to Chicago, Illinois to take an accounting position with Fairbanks, Morse & Company a large stationary and traction engine manufacturer. He continued his studies during the evening at the University of Illinois and by 1922 had successfully passed his CPA exam and within the year had become the Yellow Cab Mfg. Co.'s controller. Breech served as general assistant treasurer of General Motors (1929-1933) after which he became president (1935-1935) and chairman (1935-1942) of North American Aviation, and chairman of Bendix Aviation (1942-1946), two General Motors holdings.
In 1946 Breech was recruited by Henry Ford II to serve as Ford Motor Co.'s executive vice president. From 1955-1960 he served as Ford's Chairman of the Board, and in 1961 recruited Bendix' vice president, Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. to help turn around Trans World Airlines which had begun to falter under the tenure of Howard Hughes. Later that year he was elected chairman of the board, a position he held until his retirement in 1969.
Another important player in the Yellow Coach story was Oscar L. Arnold, who was recruited from the Ford Motor Co. in 1925 to serve as vice-president of sales for the reorganized General Motors Truck Co.
Joining him was Herbert E. Listman, who in early 1924 became sales manager of Hertz' Yellow Coach Mfg. Co. As Yellow Truck and Coach's general sales manager Listman involved Yellow in mutually beneficial arrangements with a number of the nation's interstate operators.
Arnold and Listman also got General Motors involved with holding companies that either controlled existing operators, purchased existing operators, or obtained new licenses to operate competing franchises, in order to boost sales. The pair are also credited with putting together many of the deals that surreptitiously helped General Motors eliminate the nation's streetcars and interurbans, in what became known as the "Great American Streetcar Scandal" or "Great Streetcar Swindle".
The term refers to the decades-long practice of holding companies buying controlling interest in hundreds of regional streetcar and interurban rail operators who subsequently replaced their rolling stock with General Motors-built transit coaches. Although none of the holding companies were owned directly by General Motors, many were controlled by General Motors directors and shareholders.
Although it's probable most of those small operators would have eventually replaced their rail and street cars with motor buses, there's no denying General Motors involvement hastened the process, hence the term "Scandal". Firms involved included Omnibus Corp., National City Lines, Pacific City Lines and United Cities Motor Transport.
Yellow Coach sales were sufficient that no significant design changes were made until 1930 when the emergence of new higher-capacity low-floor buses by Fageol and other manufacturers prompted a redesign of the Model Z chassis. By moving the all-new 616 cu. in. engine forward over the front axle, engineers increased the capacity of the single deck Model Z from 29 to as many as 39 seated passengers.
Powered by another all-new 525 cu. in. engine, the brand-new Yellow Coach Model V 29-passenger coach replaced the discontinued Model Y, the firm's designated highway coach.
Starting in 1931 Yellow Coach introduced a series of flat-front 213" wheelbase "pusher" city transit coaches with longitudinally-oriented rear-mounted engines which were assigned numeric (700-707) model numbers. Other coaches in the series were all similar in style, size and drivetrain although a few (701 & 703) were dedicated trolley coaches equipped with DC electric engines and roof-mounted trolley poles. Initially well-received, the model 700-709 coaches were soon plagued by clutch problems relating to excessive weight and an underpowered and poorly engineered drivetrain.
The 18-passenger Model 709 forward control COE (cab-over-engine) followed in 1933. From the outside it looked similar to the Model 700-707 coaches, but with a narrower body and significantly shorter wheelbase. The bus was unloved by its drivers as they were now forced to sit adjacent to the hot and noisy engine, which was covered by a shroud.
The drivetrain problems suffered by the rear-engined 700-709 series coaches was solved in early 1934 when Yellow Truck & Coach hired a talented Los-Angeles-based designer and engineer named Dwight E. Austin who had built and designed a more robust and better-engineered drivetrain.
In hiring Austin General Motors also received the rights to his 1932 angle drive patent which was used in one form or another on the vast majority of Yellow’s pusher type buses from the mid-thirties onward. Austin’s angle drive first appeared on the rear-engined 1932 Pickwick / 1933 Columbia bread box-style Nite Coaches of which 18 examples are thought to have been built.
Austin's drive allowed a bus engine to be placed transversely across the back of a vehicle. It consisted of a set of gears that redirected the transmissions output shaft 90 degrees forward - 45 degrees at the transmission, 45 degrees at the axle - allowing power to be transmitted to an offset differential housed at the back of the vehicle’s rear drive axle.
Two main advantages were gained by the use of Austin’s system, it allowed for greater utilization of the available space and the engine’s longitudinal placement at the very rear of the coach permitted easier access to the engine for maintenance and replacement operations. Additional benefits included ideal weight distribution (2/3 over the rear wheels- 1/3 over the front wheels) and a rear-mounted engine greatly reduced the amount of noise, heat and exhaust fumes reaching the passenger. The only downside besides the additional cost and weight of the unit, was a loss in efficiency necessitated by routing the engine through an additional set of gears.
Prior to 1936 Yellow Coaches were built using a traditional body-on-chassis architecture. When Austin arrived, he joined the General’s efforts to perfect the platform-type integral (or monocoque) construction he had pioneered while working at Pickwick. In simple terms the monocoque coach body framework supported the weight of the vehicle and the passengers without the need for a chassis. Austin's evolutionary angle drive was included on the Model 718 transit coach, undeniably Yellow most popular transit coach built during the mid-to-late 1930s.
Between 1934 and 1937, 426 Model 718 coaches were produced; 366 to New York for use by Omnibus Corp./Fifth Ave. Coach and its affiliates, and 43 to the west coast for use by the Los Angeles Railway, Los Angeles Motor Coach and Pacific Electric companies.
Another popular angle-drive model, the Model 719 interurban coach, was Austin's first complete design for Yellow's most popular customer, Greyhound. Built in 1935, the X-1 was one of three pilot models (X-1, X-2, X-3) constructed by Yellow Coach prior to final approval of the production Model 719 by Greyhound. With its transverse pusher engine, flat fascia, high passenger level and underfloor luggage compartments, the 719 ‘Super Coach’ is considered by many to be the first truly modern interstate coach and its basic layout continues to be used today, three quarters of a century later. First delivered in 1936, the Model 719 was joined by a lightly modified version, the 743 in 1937, and continued to be manufactured until 1939, when it was replaced by the PD- 371 / PDG-371 Silversides.
By 1934 the smaller Model U and W coaches were superseded by front-engine forward-control buses (and trolley-coaches) that were given the new 700 series (709-716) numeric designations. The alphabetically christened Model V and Z coaches were discontinued after 1936.
Despite GM's involvement in its finances, Greyhound found itself $140,000 in debt by the end of 1932. The firm's fortunes turned around coincident with their appointment as the official transportation company of the 1933/34 World's Fair, which was held in Chicago, which also happened to be the home of Greyhound's corporate headquarters.
The 1933-1934 World's Fair was dubbed "A Century of Progress" in honor of Chicago's 100th anniversary and General Motors hired Albert Kahn to design their pavilion, whose magnificent architecture and integral working assembly line made it the fair's largest attraction.
The 60 Intra-Mural buses built by Yellow Coach & Truck for the fair were the only form of motorized transport allowed on the grounds. Cast-iron Intra-Mural miniatures were produced in four sizes by the Arcade Toy Co. of Freeport, Illinois, for sale at the fair, and remain one of its most popular and valuable collectibles.
The aerodynamic cabs were mounted on a GMC T-26 chassis equipped with custom sheetmetal replacing the standard GMC grill, hood and fenders. The correspondingly-styled open-sided covered trailers were also constructed in the bus-building department of the firm's Pontiac, Michigan factory.
The 46-foot 5-inch long "Intra-Fair Auto-Liners", as they were officially referred to, provided seating for 50, with standing for another 50 provided they were all skinny.
The back of a Greyhound Intra-Mural Bus postcard states:
"Within the grounds of the Exposition, visitors are transported by a fleet of sixty semi-trailer type open buses, which accommodate 15,000 to 20,000 passengers per hour"
A large portion of Frank Capra's 1934 masterpiece, "It Happened One Night" took place inside a Miami to New York Atlantic Greyhound Lines coach, which further helped the firm to establish itself as the nation's premiere intercity bus service. The bus in the movie was a circa 1931 33-passenger Model Z-250 Yellow Parlor Coach powered by a six-cylinder Yellow-Knight Sleeve-Valve engine.
A return to profitability allowed Greyhound to purchase new coaches, which further helped Yellow Truck & Coach's dominance in the industry. Construction of the legendary Z-250 continued into 1937, albeit with partially streamlined coachwork and an occasional built-in rest room.
Between 1932 and 1939 most Yellow Coach model numbers were arrived at by listing a single digit indicating the series, followed by the chronological version of the series. The type indicated the number of seats. Therefore a Yellow Coach Model 718 Type 40 reveals that the particular coach is part of the 700 series, is the 18th entry in the series, and seats 40.
The most memorable of the firm's mid-30s coaches was a striking double-deck city coach dubbed the "Queen Mary" in honor of the elegant yet massive ocean-liner of the same name. Loosely based on the Model 705/708, a single 72-passenger Model 706 double-deck prototype was constructed in 1933 for evaluation by Omnibus' Chicago Motor Coach Company who desired a large-capacity coach that could handle the increased passenger loads encountered during rush hour.
The double decker was approved by Omnibus executives with a number of changes. The 705/708's chassis and drivetrain was beefed up to handle the increased load of the 30+ passengers riding on the second level, and the rear-mounted, longitudinally oriented (or straight-in) engine of the 706 prototype was re-positioned to take advantage of Dwight Austin's angle-drive system which required the use of a transverse-mounted powerplant.
A second prototype, now christened the 720 to reflect the improvements, was constructed in 1934 and following Omnibus' approval was put into production. Three hundred double-decker Model 720 and 735 variants were constructed in all, 160 for Fifth Ave Coach, and 140 to the Chicago Motor Coach Co., all set up for operation by a single person, the driver.
You may have seen the prototype Model 706 "Queen Mary" in a movie as it survived its Chicago service and was purchased by a Hollywood vehicle supply house after the War. It is known to have appeared in "Snakepit" (1948), "On the Town" (1949), and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951). It was subsequently acquired by Perris, California's Orange Empire Railway Museum who maintains a small collection of buses to supplement its extensive collection of railcars and engines.
Also introduced on the Model 720 and 735 was the Banker "Mono-Drive" semi-automatic, a mechanical transmission licensed from Oscar H. Banker, an Armenian-born engineer living in Chicago. Also available on the 718 series coaches, the Mono-Drive ultimately proved unreliable in constant use and was replaced in 1938 by a more robust Spicer Mfg. Co. built hydraulic unit that had been developed in conjunction with Yellow Truck & Coach's engineers.
Yellow's Model 720 and 735 coaches proved so useful that many were rebuilt after the War - some for the second or third time – remaining in service through the early 1950s.
By 1938 the monocoque construction introduced on the Austin-drive-equipped Model 718 and 719 coaches was implemented across the entire line, and remains the industry standard today.
Through a number of significant updates and modifications Dwight Austin's Model 719 coach evolved into the diesel-powered, air-conditioned Greyhound Super Coaches of the late thirties and 40s. The second 'Super Coach', the Model 743 - introduced in 1937, was designed to Greyhound's specifications with seating for 37. From a distance the 719 and 743 coaches look identical, but upon closer examination subtle changes can be seen.
The 743's headlights were slightly lowered when compared to a 719, resulting in a shorter raised headlight surround with six horizontal bars or accent stripes vs. the 719's seven. Additionally the air intakes located to the sides of the destination window at the top are horizontal on the 743, vertical on the 719. The 743's entrance doors extend below the integral folding front step, while the step is visible on the 719.
At the rear of the coach the differences are easier to spot, the 743 used two rear windows, the 719 three, and the vertically-oriented V-themed cast aluminum ventilation slots dominated the 743's engine doors while the 719's took up far less space, looking like an inverted U. 1,256 Yellow Coach Model 743s were constructed through 1939 when it was replaced by the new PD/PG- and PDG/PGG-3701 Silversides.
The August 16, 1936 issue of the Washington Post included a small piece marking the introduction of the Model 743, although most of the information applied to the outgoing Model 719:
A single Model 745 Sleeper Coach prototype was constructed in 1937 for Greyhound. Based on the Model 743, the 745 featured a slightly raised roof-line necessitated by large overhead compartments used to house the mattresses and bedding. Removable tray tables and panels located in-between adjacent seat-backs were pulled out and rearranged to create the two-tiered berths which were constructed in every other row, allowing 20 passengers to sleep while the remaining 10 passengers remained seated. The intricate system proved untenable and Greyhound shelved future plants for the reintroduction of sleeper service. It is assumed the single Model 745 was retrofitted with a 743-style permanent seating and placed into regular service.
Although similar to the Intra-Mural coaches found at the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair, the Greyhound-badged sightseeing coaches used at Cleveland, Ohio's 1936-1937 Great Lakes Exposition were not built by Yellow Coach. Appropriately, Cleveland based firms were hired, Bender Body Co. made the 45-passenger streamlined trailers and White furnished the tugs, which were stock 1936 Model 740T truck-tractors.
A major organizational change occurred on September 30, 1936, when the General Motors Truck Corporation was dissolved. At that time Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co., previously a holding company only, assumed manufacturing responsibilities for all of General Motors Corporation built commercial vehicles (trucks, tractors, trailers, taxicabs, and buses) with the exception of Chevrolet, whose truck manufacturing operations were still separate from GMC's, although both firms had shared some truck cabs and sheet metal as early as 1931.
Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co.'s sales organization, the General Motors Truck Co., was dissolved two months later (November 30, 1936) and its operations assumed by a new firm, the General Motors Truck & Coach Division of Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co.
The trolleybus boom of the late 20s-early 30s occurred in part due to the escalating cost of track maintenance coupled with a notable decrease in ridership on outlying routes. The 1931 Model 701 trolley coach was fitted with seating for 44 and although it looked similar in appearance to an All-Service, it was constructed without an engine or generator.
Much more popular was the firm's All-Service coach which offered customers a hybrid-powered system that could be used on any route, regardless of whether an overhead grid was available or not. Driven by two large electric motors located in front of the rear wheels, power could be supplied by the overhead electric grid via trolley poles or by an integral generator powered by a gasoline (Model GE) or diesel (DE) engine. The first Yellow Coach identified as an All-Service model was the Z-AL-265, constructed sometime in the early 1930s.
Between 1935 and 1937, 357 Model 729 All-Service coaches were constructed for the Public Service Coordinated Transport Corp of New Jersey. Other buyers of Yellow All-Service coaches included Flint, Michigan (46 - 1936 Model 737 coaches) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (40 Model 1208 coaches).
Flxible in Loudonville, Ohio had developed a smaller bus known as the Airway which was economical to operate and became popular with smaller operators. In 1937, it was redesigned with a ﬂat front and in 1938 emerged as the ﬁrst of the Clipper series with a straight in rear engine. The new Clipper was an immediate hit with the smaller operators and was purchased by larger operators, including Greyhound, for smaller routes.
Introduced in 1938 Yellow Truck & Coaches' Model 1200 series was a short-lived series produced between 1938 and mid-1940 when most of the coaches were assigned new numbers that fit the new alphanumeric Model scheme.
Model 1203, the first of the series, was a re-designation of the 27-passenger Model 739 built expressly for the Public Service Corp. of New Jersey.
The second series 1200, the Model 1204, was a 24 passenger rear engine transit bus built with a transverse-mounted Chevrolet engine that was re-designated Model TG-2401.
The 1205 was a re-designation of the 37-passenger Model 740 (transit) and 742 (parlor) coaches.
The 1206 was a single prototype 37-passenger Greyhound Silversides Super Coach. Once it entered production in 1940, it had been reclassified as the PD/PG-3701 or PDG/PGG-3701 when adorned with Greyhound livery.
The 1208 was a 41-passenger trolleybus with built in DC Motors and roof-mounted trolley poles expressly constructed for the Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company, who purchased 40 examples. It was the last series of dedicated trolleybuses constructed.
The 1209 was a 25 passenger rear engine parlor coach built nicknamed the "Cruiserette" and re-designated PD/PG-2901, -2902, -2903 and -2904.
Introduced in 1939 the 1210 was a 37-passenger parlor coach similar in size and mechanics to the 1206 prototype. After 46 units had been built it was superseded by the models PD/PG-3701.
The 29 passenger Model 1213 replaced the model 724 parlor coach and was subsequently re-designated Model PD/PG-2901.
Midway through 1939 it was decided to replace the numeric Model 1200 Series nomenclature with a more descriptive alpha-numeric system that remained the standard until the firm ended bus production in 1987.
The first letter, either T (for transit coaches), or P (for parlor coaches - aka intercity or cross-country coaches) referred to the bus type. The second letter, either G (for gasoline), D (for Diesel), or EG (electric-gas) or ED (electric-diesel), referred to how the coach was powered. The next two digits indicate seating capacity (27, 33, 37, 40 etc.). The next two digits indicate a model's chronology within the series (01, 02, 03, 04 etc.).
So a Model TD-4501, designates a transit coach, powered by a diesel engine, with seating for 45, of which it was the first in the series.
Surprisingly General Motors didn't begin to work on a diesel engine until the mid-thirties, when they equipped 27 Model 729 All-Service coaches with generators powered by four-cycle 474 cu. in. Hercules diesel engines for New Jersey's Public Service Coordinated Transport.
After he found out that Yellow Truck & Coach had installed a third-party engine in one of its vehicles, Albert F. Sloan entrusted Charles F. Kettering's General Motors Research division to come up with a better product. Although four-cycle Diesels offered better fuel economy, Kettering's engineers elected to go with a two-cycle design due to its compact size, lighter weight and increased torque and horsepower.
Versions were developed with 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-cylinders and by 1938 two models, the four-cylinder Model 4-71 and six-cylinder Model 6-71, were made available to Yellow Truck & Coach, the series so named because each cylinder's combustion chamber measured 71 cu. in.
Ideally suited for use with generator-powered All-Service coaches, GM's new Diesel proved problematic when installed in a traditional coach whose transmissions strained under the increased torque. By 1939 that problem had been solved through the use of a purpose-built torque converter.
A single pre-war model, the PDA/PGA-3701, used a third letter "A" whose actual meaning remains elusive. The PDA/PGA-3701 coaches were long wheelbase 37-passenger versions of the Model PD/PG-2900 series Cruiserette. After General Motors reorganized their bus and truck operations in 1943 a second series of the PDA/PGA coaches, the PDA/PGA-3702 (1,200 in total) were produced by the Pontiac Motor Division as the Yellow Coach facility was engaged in the manufacture of GMC's 2½-ton truck-based DUKW amphibious transporters.
Although Yellow Coach continued to monopolize the national Greyhound fleet a number of independent Greyhound operators continued to purchase other brands into the 1940s which included ACF, ACF-Brill, C.D. Beck, Flxible and others.
Although Flxible was corporately unrelated to General Motors, their president, Charles F. Kettering, the founder of the Dayton Electric Co. (later DELCO) became an important GM shareholder in 1915 when he sold Dayton to General Motors. He later headed GM's research laboratories and became a GM vice president. As Kettering held large blocks of both firm's stock, it only made sense that Flxibles buses and professional cars relied upon GM drivetrains.
Flxible's popular Airway coach was built on a Chevrolet chassis, and when their revolutionary monocoque-construction Clipper appeared in late 1938, it offered a choice of Chevrolet or Buick engines. Flxible's popular professional car line also utilized GM cowl & chassis, eventually becoming the exclusive manufacturer of Buick-based hearses and ambulances.
Yellow coach took notice of the popularity of the Clipper and in 1939 introduced its own budget-priced intercity coach, the Cruiserette. Designated the Model 1209, the Cruiserettes were more conservatively styled than the Clipper, but shared its integral construction and rear-mounted, longitudinally oriented drivetrain. A 29 passenger variant, the Model 1213, joined the Cruiserette lineup in 1940.
Re-designated the PD/PG-25 (Model 1209) and PD/PG-29 (Model 1213) in 1940, the Cruiserette and Cruiserette-based 37-passenger Camelback Victory Coaches (PDA/PGA-37) were easily identified by their bulbous rear ends, necessitated by the use of inline gas and diesel engines and transmissions mounted lengthwise behind the rear axle.
By that time plastic, celluloid, vinyl and other man-made materials were becoming commonplace inside motor coach interiors, more so due to the rationing of aluminum, chromium, copper and stainless steel in the ramp up to the Second World War. A 1940 issue Bus Transportation magazine stated: "In the realm of substitutes, plastics already have entered the bus picture. Yellow Coach was probably one of the first to employ plastics for decorative as well as utilitarian purposes and that was long before the present crisis was even contemplated."
Synthetic fabrics were in use as door and interior panels, headliner, and seating while plastic either augmented or replaced metal on door handles, window cranks, moldings, lights and numerous other interior fixtures.
After the war a third letter, M (for manual), or H (for hydraulic aka "automatic"), was added to the model number to indicate whether the coach was equipped with a manual or automatic transmission.
Work on Yellow Coaches' most important pre-war model commenced in 1938. Designed exclusively for Greyhound, the 33' long 37-passenger streamlined coach featured fluted aluminum side panels that ran the entire length of the coach, mirroring the look of aerodynamic passenger trains popular at the time.
A full-scale design mockup (only the right side) was constructed sporting the Greyhound logo and its shiny aluminum sides prompted observers to rechristen it the "Silversides" although its official designation was always Super Coach. A running prototype, the Model 1206, was constructed in 1939 and placed on display at the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. The 1206 replaced a Greyhound-liveried Model 743, its immediate predecessor, that was put on display at the start of the Fair. An actual production Super Coach, the first Model PGG-3701 produced, replaced the 1206 which was subsequently placed into service.
Although it's commonly assumed all Silversides coaches were sold to Greyhound, a small number were made available to other operators such as Trailways. Super Coaches designed expressly for Greyhound were given a third G-letter suffix as in PGG-3701 or PDG-3701. Non-greyhound Silversides were designated PG-3701 or PD-3701. After several states adopted new standards allowing for longer coaches, a slightly longer 41-passenger Super Coach (35' vs. 33') was built for Greyhound that was given a Model designation of PDG/PGG 4101.
A total of 586 Silversides were constructed built before GM converted the Yellow Coach plant over to wartime production. Early versions were constructed of aluminum, although later versions featured steel coachwork as aluminum became rationed as US industry ramped up for the War. Post-war Silversides featured stainless steel fluting
Greyhound was the official transportation carrier of 1939-1940 New York World's Fair. A fleet of 36-passenger trackless trains dubbed "Sidewalk Crawlers" (3 open tram cars pulled by a Mack Model ED-based tug) provided pavilion to pavilion shuttle service while a separate fleet of Yellow Coach Model 1207 coaches ferried visitors into the fairgrounds from stops located outside the grounds.
Another Greyhound-badged coach, designed by Raymond Loewy and built by Yellow Coach, provided sightseeing tours and point-to-point transport during the Fair. The July 25, 1938 issue of Automobile topics included a small article on the 120-passenger buses:
Other than manufacturing the bare chassis, Yellow Truck & Coach had no known involvement with the eight 1936 "Parade of Progress", or single 1938 "Previews of Progress" mobile advertising trucks that General Motors used on various cross-country road trips ion the late 30s. They were slightly more involved with the construction of the more famous Futurliners, 12 of which were constructed in 1940 for GM's travelling roadshows. A caption in a circa 1940 pamphlet shows a Futurliner monocoque chassis under construction at Yellow Truck & Coach's Pontiac, Michigan factory. The caption reads:
The same pamphlet contains pictures of workmen fabricating the aluminum body panels in the Fleetwood Fisher body plant in Detroit with the following captions:
It's not entirely clear at which facility the body panels were mated to the framework, but the general consensus is that the coaches were completed in the Fleetwood-Fisher plant #18 at 261 West End Ave at West Fort St., in Detroit, Michigan - the same facility where the Fisher Body Corp. Aeroplane Division built airframes and propellers during the First World War.
In 1941 Yellow Coach, built a single prototype PDG-3301, built of steel (instead of aluminum).
Raymond Loewy designed and patented a series of three coaches (D.129,396, D.129,411 and D.127,174) for Greyhound in 1941, one of which (D.127,174) definitely influenced the coaches produced by General Motors and Greyhound immediately after the War.
In September of 1941 Yellow Coaches' founder, John D. Hertz, went to work for Uncle Sam. In its Sep 22, 1941 issue Time Magazine reported:
By that time the employees of Yellow Truck & Coach had already joined the War effort. General Motors various division made tremendous contributions to the War effort, producing tanks and 16 different types of trucks for the Allies ranging from diminutive 1½-ton arms repair vehicles to massive 8-ton truck-tractors. Yellow Truck & Coach division was selected to produce the 2-1/2-ton CCKW 6-cylinder 6x6 truck, without a doubt one of the two most important vehicles of the war, and numerically the most important.
The first versions off the line in early 1941 were commercial-based COE (cab-over-engine) 2½-ton units classified as ACKWX by the military. The first orders for the standard control 2½-ton CCKW units followed in September 1941, the first order being equipped with standard closed GMC truck cabs.
Ensuing contracts called for a more accessible military-spec closed and convertible cab and although Yellow Truck & Coach produced 527,100 units between 1941 and 1945, they were unable to build all of the approximately 800,000 required so Studebaker, REO and International Harvester split the remaining business.
In addition to its use by US Forces, the CCKW was supplied under Lend-Lease to Canada, Britain and Free France. Available in two wheelbases, the standard CCKW cargo truck was the most popular, other variants included a water tanker, gasoline tanker, machine shop, bomb transporter, radio truck, dump truck (tippable cargo body) and fire truck. A small number were built in knocked-down form, requiring the front and rear chassis to be bolted together during the reassembly process.
Most memorable was the amphibious DUKW variant of which 2,000 examples were built by Yellow Coach. Designed to make the transition from ship to shore more tolerable, innumerable uses were discovered and they remain the only World-War II era vehicle in regular use today. Tour operators in Austin, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. continue to operate the 60+ year-old-vehicles on a daily basis.
On July 14, 1943, the General Motors board agreed to a reorganization of its two commercial vehicle manufacturing divisions (Yellow Truck & Coach & GMC Truck) into a single entity, GMC Truck & Coach Division, which came into being on September 30, 1943. Irving B. Babcock became general manager of GMC Truck & Coach and with the approval of the War Production Board, limited civilian bus and truck production commenced in March of 1944. Unfortunately the new buses were now badged as GM Coaches and the Yellow name was retired forever.
The hard work of Yellow Truck & Coaches' employees during the War was honored by an Army-Navy "E" award on June 2, 1944. The Army-Navy Award for Excellence in War Production was typically normally awarded when a firm completed a large order for the US War effort or filled an order in a short period of time. At the ceremony, the employees would be given an enameled pin mounted on a card certifying their contribution to the war effort with a message from the president. The employer would be presented with an “E’ flag and banner and outstanding employees would be presented with a special certificate.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com